PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Posts Tagged ‘Steroids

Who Will be the First Steroid User Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame?

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Mcgwire testifying before congress in 2005

I’m not interested in getting into how Mark McGwire handled the steroids issue, and his revelation that he did indeed use PED’s, we all know this has been a complete disaster for Big Mac. He lied in front of congress and he’s basically been a pariah ever since. Now he’s returning to baseball as the St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach and was almost forced to admit his wrong doings, and even in doing so, is saying steroids did not help him hit homeruns.

I do think an interesting question is how McGwire’s admission affects the Baseball Hall of Fame. At some point there will be steroid users recognized in the Hall of Fame, and someone will be the first to get in. But who that player will be is up for debate.

Shortly after McGwire’s admission I participated in #SportsPRChat, a chat session on Twitter run by Mike Schaffer (@MikeSchaffer) Director of Social Media at Brotman-Winter Fried Communications and author of The Buzz by Mike Schaffer. During Monday’s chat I had a discussion with Matt LaCasse (@MattLaCasse) about who the first steroid user in the Baseball Hall of Fame will be?

LaCasse feels McGwire will make that claim, due to being likable, finally coming clean and that being “the face” of the steroid era makes him the right candidate. He might be right, McGwire certainly has time on his side as he’s eligible (he has seven years left on the ballot) and now has a day-to-day job in baseball where he can mend fences with sportswriters, the ones who actually do the voting. But, I’m not so sure “the face” of the steroid era being the first in the Hall of Fame is such a good thing for baseball.

I argued that from a PR perspective baseball would be better off with someone like Andy Pettitte. Pettitte seems to have created the blueprint for getting past the steroid issue. When baseball’s Mitchell Report outed him as an offender, Pettitte immediately faced the music by holding a press conference.

To this day he remains a respected player and citizen in the game. I don’t recall steroids being mentioned once during his two World Series starts in 2009. In contrast, we’ve seen guys like McGwire, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds deny their use of PED’s for years, and as a result be banished from the game for the most part.

A player like Pettitte going in first would minimize the negative PR at the time of his induction, and minimize the negative press when his peers finally enter. Yes, there would still be plenty of steroid stories when McGwire, Bonds, Clemens etc. go in, but it would definitely be tempered a bit with an admitted user already in. A strike against Pettitte is that he hasn’t retired yet, so time is not on his side, as we have to wait at least six years before he’s eligible.

No matter how it plays out, I think it’s an interesting question. So, who do you think will be the first steroid user inducted into the Hall of Fame and who would be best for baseball?

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Written by Brian Gleason

January 12, 2010 at 1:14 am

Can Big Papi Save Baseball?

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In 1998 Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa virtually saved the game of baseball with their incredible homerun race. We found out later they might have also killed the game by bringing on the steroid era. Is it time now for another home run slugger to save the game?

Major League Baseball, the Players Association and the media have been fighting a public relations battle over performance enhancing drugs for nearly a decade, even causing the federal government to get involved. But, things got a little more interesting on Monday when Boston Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz entered the fray.

Ortiz, in his first meeting with the media since arriving at Spring Training, became arguably the highest profile player to call for stricter testing for PED’s. Ortiz not only called for testing more often, but called for every player to be tested multiple times during the season. He even went as far as recommending blood tests and a full season suspension for a failed test. Currently a player gets a 50-game suspension for a first time fail.

In the eyes of the fans he’ll been seen as one of the few star players that is finally putting the good of the game ahead of big numbers, ego and most importantly money. The public and the media will eat this up, but they’ve been on this side of the fence for a while, without much result. The missing link to this point has been the players.

The Players Association, one of the strongest, if not the strongest, union in sports has been doing its job, right or wrong, protecting the rights of their players. To the chagrin of the fans and even some media, they’ve been against any and all testing, at times making it difficult for Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, to even discuss changes to the CBA.

So now the question is, can Ortiz and other players use this moment to bring about real changes in baseball’s testing policy and penalties? Can Ortiz be the galvanizing force that helps put an end to the steroid era in baseball?

A few players have spoken out in the past, but for the most part, players have been reluctant to call out their peers, or go against the union that fights so hard for them. High profile players rarely like to ruffle feathers and go against the union, and fringe players fear losing their jobs.

But, maybe a player the stature of Ortiz is all that was needed? Maybe his words will be the first domino to fall, and he can be the guy that makes it ok for other players to step up publicly and demand more testing and harsher penalties. The only way the union will come to the negotiation table and seriously discuss a real testing policy is if the players they’re charged with protecting force them too.

We may see the effects of Big Papi’s comments as soon as Tuesday when Alex Rodriguez is set to hold his first press conference since his admission on ESPN last week that he used performance enhancing drugs from 2001-2003. You can guarantee players around the league will be fielding questions for days about A-Rod and Ortiz’s comments. Will they play it PC and listen to their agents, PR reps and the union, or will enough fed-up players side with Ortiz and begin putting some pressure on their own union?

It seems with fans and media ready for resolution, and the other shoe dropping with the A-Rod news, the time is ripe for the “clean” players to draw a line in the sand. Is Big Papi the guy to do that, or are we saddled with another decade-plus of wondering who is and who isn’t using?

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Written by Brian Gleason

February 17, 2009 at 4:07 am

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